Guarding Donovan Mitchell is no small task, but it’s one Quentin Grimes is ready for in the Knicks’ first-round series versus the Cavaliers.
It’s been an interesting year for Quentin Grimes in his second season in the league. After a quietly promising rookie campaign that saw him take the backseat to veterans, he’s been unleashed into the starting lineup and showing everyone what he is capable of.
From spotting up as a shooter to defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player, Grimes has shown his versatility in various different ways this season, helping the Knicks compile a 47-35 record this season. To close out the regular season, Grimes was able to show off more of his offensive skillset, averaging 21.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists over the Knicks’ final 9 games. The leap that he has been able to take in just his second year in the league is tremendous and something to keep an eye on. But the biggest test of his career has yet to come.
Quentin Grimes Last 9 Games— KnicksMuse (@KnicksMuse) April 12, 2023
22 PTS | 2 REB | 1 AST | 6 3PM | 58% FG
25 PTS | 5 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 56% FG
14 PTS | 9 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 42% FG
23 PTS | 8 REB | 4 AST | 5 3PM | 57% FG
14 PTS | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 44% FG
27 PTS | 2 REB | 5 AST | 6 3PM | 53% FG
36 PTS | 6… pic.twitter.com/35hqk1ZZAs
Although the Donovan Mitchell versus the Knicks storyline will garner more attention, Quentin Grimes also has something to prove in this series. It’s easy to forget that just under a year ago Quentin Grimes was one of the more coveted pieces in a trade for Mitchell. While the Knicks did not get the dynamic scorer from the Utah Jazz, they made it clear that Grimes is an extremely important part of their future. Now Grimes will have the opportunity to show why New York did not miss out on Mitchell, as he should enter the postseason with a chip on his shoulder as he’s tasked with guarding arguably the best player on the floor. This certainly won’t be an easy task for Grimes, who will have to do his homework and study Mitchell’s three-level scoring to mitigate his chances and in turn, get something going in transition.
Grimes has had the toughest matchup difficulty of any player in the league the entire season, according to Basketball Index. No matter who’s in front of him, the former Houston standout is going to do everything he can to stop you from getting a bucket. His intensity on the defensive end is something that has gone under the radar all season long, and it will be no different against Cleveland, which is why he has a good chance to make a name for himself in this matchup.
Quentin Grimes had the toughest matchup difficulty of any NBA Player this season, and he stepped up huge.— KnicksMuse (@KnicksMuse) April 11, 2023
All-Defense 🔒 pic.twitter.com/U5NFZSC1x1
A guy as quick and explosive as Donovan Mitchell doesn’t make Grimes’s life any easier. But what QG should know is that there are ways to stop him, as previous playoff appearances have shown. First off, Mitchell is not the best when it comes to finishing with his left hand. In the 2021 Western Conference semifinals, the Los Angeles Clippers put Mitchell on full blast, forcing him to go left at any point they possibly can. Forcing him into a trap or a double team will be something for Grimes and the Knicks to focus on in this series, especially after he’s picked the ball up. This adjustment not only helped the Clippers get the win, but it changed the dynamic of the entire series as the Clippers were able to knock off the 1-seeded Jazz.
With solid weapons on the inside and a playmaking point guard alongside him to help with his occasional playmaking struggles, Mitchell’s weaknesses have essentially been covered up by a well-rounded Cavaliers starting lineup that can put points on the board as good as any team in the league. It’ll be up to Grimes to expose those aspects of his game in any way he can.
Take a look at some of Grimes defensive possessions on Mitchell from back in January.— Jake Brown (@JakeBrownNBA) April 11, 2023
As unguardable as Mitchell is, Grimes does everything he can to limit his chances, whether it’s getting a hand up on a shot or stripping the ball. pic.twitter.com/IlzmaiJOwx
Another area that will be a point of emphasis for Grimes is getting over screens. Off of pick-and-roll opportunities, Mitchell averages 10.6 points on 9.3 pick-and-roll possessions per game, ranking 6th in the league in that category. The good news is that navigating screens is one of Grimes’ best attributes as a defender, allowing his instincts and physicality to shine. It won’t come down to just Grimes, however, as the backline of the Knicks’ defense will have to communicate when and where the screen is coming so that Grimes can adjust accordingly so that he doesn’t get stuck. Limiting one of Mitchell’s strong suits isn’t easy to do, especially since the pick-and-roll is one of the more difficult plays to defend in the entirety of basketball. But if the Knicks can lock in on that end of the floor and relay defensive reads to each other, then they will make this series into a living nightmare for the former Louisville standout.
Donovan Mitchell has just been *punishing* teams with pull-ups. pic.twitter.com/lFNUNzevEr— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) January 25, 2023
For the majority of the season, Grimes has had to play significant minutes on the opposing team’s best perimeter player with minimal help on the perimeter alongside Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett. This has been a big reason why Grimes’s defensive rating does not reflect his actual performance out on the floor. But the Knicks’ recent acquisition of Josh Hart allows Grimes to either get some rest on the bench or take a couple plays off Mitchell to get his wind back. While it originally appeared that Hart would cut into his playing time, it turns out that the versatility of Hart plays to Grimes’s advantage, especially in a matchup like this one. With the ability to roll out a one-two punch of Grimes and Hart, it means that Grimes can leave every last ounce of effort out on the floor in order to stop Mitchell, without the repercussions of not having another defender to pick him up while he sits.
Obviously, there are many aspects of this team that will come into play in this series, but Grimes’s defensive impact will become one of the larger aspects of this series. Although the series between the Cavs and the Knicks will be Grime’s playoff debut, the eyes won’t be on him to make something happen, which alleviates some pressure with Mitchell headlining this matchup. Considering how the 2022 offseason unfolded, this is a great opportunity for Grimes to lock up one of the league’s most elite offensive players on one of the biggest stages in basketball, while potentially becoming a household name during the process.